Tag Archives: FE Clark

Week Eight and Overall Winners!

The summer flew by! We’ve been so pleased to host this contest for the second year in a row. So many wonderful writers contributed a wide range of funny, heartbreaking, haunting, moving, and beautiful stories each week.

This week was no exception. You made my job very difficult with this batch of inspired, magical stories. But, as the contest requires winners, here we go:

In the Ocean of Your Mind by M T Decker: I imagined this poem as an Druid invocation: the high priest telling the new initiates, gathered among the standing stones, how their magic works. As a fan of economical language use, I find poetry especially pleasing. The poem also gives good advice to writers and other creators of things.

Dare Ye Stonehenge by Pattyann McCarthy: What a great opening line! I can see those birds, swooping as one to avoid Stonehenge. You do a lovely job conjuring both the threat and the draw of the standing stones that have inspired people’s imaginations for centuries. The story’s darkness beautifully echoes the storm brewing in the photo.

The Passing Seasons by AV Laidlaw: I love the crystal clear images of this story, rendered in details such as the son’s soft hand, the puff of dust, and the cowled faces of the sisters. (What a wonderful turn of phrase that last one!) Beautiful language also abounds in such phrases as “footsteps tracing spiral destinies on the black grass.”

The Dark Magic by Pratibha: I have to admit that I took some guilty pleasure in this story: the image of the perpetual tourist searching for the perfect shot rather than simply enjoying the location is familiar to all of us. (I think I have a photo of me posing in front of Stonehenge somewhere…) There is a delicious maliciousness in this story as well as an indictment of that tourist culture—we go places but we don’t always experience them. Perhaps we could learn from the tourist’s fate at the end of this story!

Rain Dance of the Isenji by Voima Oy: I love how the magic works in this story: to bring the rain, entice the clouds to join the people in their dance. There’s a sweetness, too, in the travelers from the stars staying to help the people and make some friends and then a bittersweetness in their exit at the end.

Tourist by Holly Geely: This story runs the gamut from amusing to heartbreaking, taking us from a pair of self-proclaimed Druids “doing the deed” at Stonehenge to a glimpse of the narrator’s dark past. The forced carefree attitudes and vacant smiles turned the story from comedy to tragedy in one simple, but very powerful image.

Third Place: Weather Magic by Sonya: What a little gem of a story! In so few words, we get a clear sense of so much: the characters’ personalities, their relationships, and the rules of the world. I’m reminded of set designers and their models in Ali’s miniature Stonehenge, a clever use of the prompt photo.

Second Place: The Trial by Steph Ellis: This story offers narrative tension right from the beginning: we start in the middle of the action and worry with the poet about the lord’s displeasure. The writing is strong with beautifully chosen verbs—growled, glowered, scrabbled, and quailed—that convey so much in a single word. I couldn’t help but think of the TV show The Vikings (one of my favorites!) as the story unfolded.

AND OUR WEEK EIGHT WINNER IS:

Outliers by FE Clark: This story has it all: narrative tension, a clear arc, fabulous word choice, and word play that tickled me (outlier, out, liar!). I love the details throughout the story: skinny jeans, specifically named trees: “Silver Birch, Beech, and the occasional rattled looking Scots Pine,” and the stone covered in moss and lichen (not to mention its resemblance to, well, you know). These details make the setting that much more vivid. Lovely verb choices add to the story’s power: wriggle, plod, barge, and sprinkle. Well done!

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Congratulations to Sonya, Steph, and FE! FE’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow morning.

We have FIVE ULTIMATE prize winners for our contest-wide prizes:

The first ULTIMATE prize goes to Mark A. King for submitting the most stories (10!). Mark, you will receive a signed and doodled copy of The Gantean by Emily June Street, probably in a year or so when the snail-riding elves who deliver international mail finally slither up to your cottage.

The four other ULTIMATE prizes go to Steph Ellis, FE Clark, Nancy Chenier, and AV Laidlaw, who all tied for the category of most winning writers in the contest, each with four stories that made it to the podium. Each of these excellent writers will also receive a signed copy of The Gantean. Ultimate prize winners, you will all be contacted via Twitter for your mailing addresses. Many thanks for participating in Summer of Super Short Stories 2! Look for our next contest, Winter of Whimsy and Weirdness, in early 2016!

Week Seven Winners!

Hello everyone! I’m so pleased that Emily and Beth asked me to judge the contest again this summer. As a proud member of the flash-fiction community, I am always happy to lend my support to this wonderful craft. As most #flashdogs know, writing micro-fiction is no joke. We’ve got a tiny space to say a lot of big things. And those of us who have been doing it for a while know that there is a certain power in that. Who among us hasn’t found our longer works improving tenfold due to the mad editing skills needed for flash?

Anyway, this summer has been a whole lot of heavy-duty novel revisions for me, so I haven’t been able to be as active a member of the flash community as in years past, but I’ve been with you in spirit. And that’s why judging week seven of Luminous Creatures Press Summer of Super Short Stories has been such a treat. I loved reading everyone’s varied and unique takes on the prompt. I appreciated the use of symbolism, imagery, irony, quirky dialogue and mythological allusions. I read some lines that made me, well, pretty damn jealous of many of you.

Good work, everyone! Just a reminder that all stories were judged by blind reading to preserve the purity of the contest. First, a word or two about each story:

The Blue Bird by F E Clark:
A small ceramic blue bird becomes a symbol for a woman enveloped in an abusive relationship. I grieved for her short-lived lightheartedness and the shattered bird that became part of her temporary celebration. But I also took small comfort in the bird’s final message to his bereaved owner. We can only hope she takes heed.

A God’s Justice by Steph Ellis:
“Why do you tell me my own story?”
“Because you do not yet know its end.”
I knew as soon as I read those two lines between the Raven and Sibyl in “A God’s Justice” that Sibyl was going to get it, and big time. And boy, did the Raven deliver. A tale of hubris and swift eye-gouging, heart-ripping justice for crimes committed against gods. Even if the perpetrator herself had the blood of the gods running through her veins.

Harpies by A V Laidlaw:
Love the imagery in this woeful tale of one man’s nightly hell. The protagonist must pay for his sins through attacks to his flesh by harpies who (shudder) wear the faces of the wife and daughters he neglected in favor of adultery and drugs. And like all nods to Greek mythology, he’d surely like to die, but nope, death doesn’t come for him, just those vicious reminders of his transgressions.

To Everything Its Season by M T Decker:
“Someone has to drive.” Indeed. And even Death needs a driver. In this take on the afterlife, Ember, the protagonist must wipe away her tears and try to avoid sentimentality as she drives Death from place to place.

The Half-Life of Bats and Cats by Mark A. King:
The turmoil of a post-apocalyptic society sets the backdrop for the shattered relationship between a predatory mother and the daughter she tormented. As we near the mother’s demise, we wonder what will now become of the protagonist who admits, even as she says goodbye to the woman who once stalked her like a cat, “I will be lonely without her.”

The First Kiss Between Death and Everything by Mark A. King:
A very clever take on the prompt indeed! An office romance is born at a drunken costume party. The grim reaper makes a move on a girl who quite confidently tells him her costume represents “everything.” (Dibs on that costume for next Halloween by the way) And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least until they sober up and put on their street clothes.

Little Bird Fly by Pattyann McCarthy:
My heart grieves for the mother who watches her daughter embracing life, even as her daughter’s young life is slipping away. The beauty of a sunny day of kite flying and the joy she feels watching her daughter laugh and run with her older brother provide a perfect ironic backdrop for the terrible truth this mom must hold inside. It’s a tale that teaches that valuable lesson: cherish every day.

Flighty by Sonya:
This short tale runs the gamut from the height of happiness to a final goodbye. The protagonist seems to be haunted by a woman (a former love, I imagine) who sits, almost translucent in a coffee shop. Her last words are cut short, as is the protagonist’s happiness.

The City Under The Clouds by Ophelia Leong:
Adam, the protagonist of “The City Under the Clouds” takes an arduous journey to Below, the city he wondered about since his childhood. It isn’t until he reaches manhood that he finds – described with stunning imagery – Below. There, in the graveyard of the city, he learns the truth: Below is no more, just a once great empire turned to ruin.

Raven Girl by Catherine Connolly:
The image of a raven-haired teenaged girl swallowing birds from the sky won’t soon leave me, nor will the line, “We are what we must be, in the end.” Some strong description here, and a tale that won’t end well for Bran or the birds she’s devoured.

Beneath the Not Quite Dead Tree by A J Walker:
“Sometimes deaths are needed to save a life,” Elizabeth says to her sister Alison before giving her a first lesson in life and death. This story covers the thought-provoking theme of the balance of life; one life ends and another is saved. In this case, Elizabeth uses magic to revive a dead bird, thus preserving the balance.

Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
A migrating bird confronts the “foundling from the sea” who has magically stopped summer from exiting. Why the aversion to autumn? She’s trying to preserve the life of a woman she holds dear. Another story that made me think about the balance of life and death. Save one life, but hold the seasons captive? A provocative concept.

A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
At first I thought this story was going to be magical in nature. I visualized a prince or princess, frozen as a statue hoping for someone to break the spell. But then I realized the protagonist is a patient in a coma or perhaps someone suffering from a disease like locked-in syndrome. It touched me, this very powerful take on mercy killing from the point of view of the patient.

Memory Wife by Voima Oy:
“The chair in the living room was filled with her absence.” A powerful line from “Memory Wife,” a tale of loss filled with such vivid imagery – the sights and sounds of the missing other half – I felt true sorrow for the widower protagonist. Nicely done.

Without further ado, I present the week seven (drum roll, flourish of trumpets, marching band playing “Firework”…) the winner and runners up!

Third Place: The Blue Bird F E Clark:
I’m a sucker for a good symbol. It would’ve been nice if our protagonist threw the bird at her abusive partner’s head, but alas, no. But I didn’t see the tale as hopeless, because though she lost her brilliant blue ceramic bird, she gained something. In that tiny piece of paper, like the words inside a fortune cookie, she could see the possibility of freedom. Great imagery here to create the shifting mood of the story. Well done!

Second Place: Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
Again, a story that made me think ‘deep thoughts’. In my mind, this story transcended its basic premise of a girl-creature who used magic to preserve the life of her ‘grandmother,’ while single-handedly stopping the seasons from changing. For me it became about the bigger picture: the balance of nature, of life and death. The idea of playing god (or goddess), yet disturbing the balance with possible dire consequences.

AND OUR WEEK SEVEN WINNER IS:

A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
I chose this story for two reasons: First, I loved the premise. I personally like a story that makes me think about the big life questions. I couldn’t get the image of this person, imprisoned inside his/her own body, out of my mind. The second reason was the writing was expertly crafted. Lines like “I’m a husk yearning to be thrown to compost,” or the title line “a phoenix denied its fire,” formed amazing metaphors for the protagonist’s desire to be freed.

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Congratulations FE, Nancy, and Foy! Foy’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Kristen for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Eight, judged by yours truly, Beth Deitchman!

Week Six Winners!

The writing community certainly likes to make it difficult for judges to choose. Lovely job this week, everyone. This was tough!

Second Nature by Madilyn Quinn: I wonder whether the little girl is seeing ghosts or slipping through dimensions? Either way, this story was a fascinating and well-crafted look in her mind.

The First World by Voima Oy: A clever spin on the creation myth. Now I know it’s dragons I have to thank for Wi-Fi! I love the idea of being a dragon’s creation. The description of the dragons is lovely.

Alexander at Delphi by AV Laidlaw: The elements of Greek mythology are wonderful. This Alexander, much as the original who made his foolish demands, bit off more than he could chew. The spoiled child and the bitter Oracle are wonderful characters. The ending feels like a just punishment.

The Pillars by Ophelia Leong: Sympathy for the lonely Amy turns into what feels like a happy ending. Whatever lies beyond those pillars, I hope she’s in for some grand adventure. This was a lovely take.

Peacefulness Among the Poppies by Pattyann McCarthy: The glimpse into this character’s world. I felt her pain and her relief. The vivid imagery took me on a trip (ha, ha – I’m so clever…). That she is doing something dangerous and sacrificing her health for happiness…a true tragedy.

Crystal Reign by Mark A. King: I wanted Kyle to succeed but the story spirals with the downfall of addiction. Realistic and heartbreaking. I especially like this use of the pillars. Another story of addiction; something so compelling in a world full of stress. Great job.

Not Exactly Magical by Nancy Chenier: The guide is a fun narrator. The light-hearted tour dissolved quickly into something grim. The ending was a delightful thrill. Scary, effective, and shocking. Wonderful.

Crystal Nights by Mark A. King: Poor Crystal. Her reluctance to return to her other identity spoke volumes. Her over-the-top lipstick was delightful. I’m still imagining her glittering in the club. This story speaks to me for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the heartbreak that shouldn’t exist – but does. I hope Crystal finds her way.

Third Place: Three Pillars to the Wise by MT Decker: You had me from the opening line and I was fascinated to the finish. There is so much wisdom in this short story – hope, sadness, an emotional rollercoaster. For a moment I thought I understood the meaning of life. This one touched me in a way I didn’t expect.

Second Place: One Day by Steph Ellis: The twist at the end is hilarious. I’m not a parent, but I know some (and have) parents. I can imagine this solution would appeal to tired mothers and fathers everywhere. This grandmother strikes me as fun. I’d like to invite her to a party.

Thanks for the chuckle – I loved this.

AND OUR WEEK SIX WINNER IS:

Madame Doofay and the Six Sugar Candy Skulls by FE Clark: First of all, I love this title. I was expecting something silly and the mental image of gummy skulls fizzing in gin is deceptively innocent. I can’t decide if I like this main character, or if they are too jealous. Why did Jason offer her the skulls? Who is this Felicity? Was this her idea?

Has she won?

The sinister ending is a perfect wrap-up of the eerie atmosphere. There are so many layers to this story. Well done!

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Congratulations MT, Steph, and, FE! FE’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Holly for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Seven, judged by the multi-talented Kristen Falso-Capaldi!

Week Five Winners!

Halloween starts early this year (my favorite holiday, so I’m completely okay with that). So much sinister spookiness this week. Nightmares seeping into waking, crawling bogs, sentient mists. First, thanks to Emily and Michael DelGuadio for the prompts, which combined couldn’t help but evoke the awful (awe-ful) and otherworldly. My short list was anything but. It was painful to choose a mere three for the winner’s circle.

Tried and Tested by David Shakes: One of two metas this week (and I loved them both—for very different reasons). I loved the two aborted attempts before crumpling the paper, the comparison with the giants of the genre, and the seeping of the author’s voice into Tammy’s journal writing. And even though I recognized (as the one of the characters did—ultimately the author POV did) that we were in cliché territory, the features were just different enough to catch me up and make me want to learn how the old bones and last fall’s journal entry match up.

The Bog by Madilyn Quinn: Wonderful reverse-take on witch hunts, where muggles would accuse the gossips of witchcraft. Here, the witch is the authority with the power to condemn those who displease her. You’ve illustrated so well how common folk allow themselves to fall under the spell and support the tyranny of a strong personality. Talia’s a vivid character. The line “her lavender lips pull into a grin” highlights her affectation. I admire the MC’s spunk in the face of that. Talia’s parting challenge make her all the more formidable—and make the MC’s threat seem empty (and yet gives the reader a glimmer of hope).

Ghost of the Fog by Pattyann McCarthy: Clever! This was so deliberately overwrought that I couldn’t wait to get to the punch-line (although for a panicked moment, I feared the use of phrases like “languishing treacherously inside” and “fear encapsulates every cell” might not be ironic). They say it takes a great writer to pull off intentionally “poor” writing. Or was that dancers? I think it works for all artists. The voice is pure B-movie—and the perfect set up for the reveal of the true situation.

In the Zone by Voima Oy: Intriguingly surreal take. Makes me wonder what could be on the other side of the border to make crossing the Zone worth it. The parallels to immigrants crossing treacherous land-/sea-scapes keeps this one grounded. Fantastic how the zone affects each character differently. Delicious phrases like “flowers followed us with their eyes” and “flashed with the fireflies” made me think that the some might come to the Zone simply for the experience.

Living Forest by A S Gardana: Very cool premise. I love stories where the reader is asked to sympathize with a different species. The ending leaves us wondering if she’s managed to actually make it or if she’s hallucinating as she sinks into the mud. What really impresses me about this piece is how you’ve crafted a story replete with sensation yet with the absence of sight! I had to go back and check—yep, “imagery” without visual referents. I like the idea of closing ones eyes to “see” better.

Aubergine by Holly Geely: If I could have given an honorable mention, this would have been it. A surreal cavort through the creepiness, elephants and eggplants welcome. You had me giggling from the first sentence and kept me chuckling all the way through (haunted port-a-potty! “Crikey!” Aubergine-ious!). I fell in love with the rattle-spider immediately. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this story so much if it weren’t for the snaky trace of the dream crossing into reality. Thank you for the hilarity.

Delicious by K M Zafari: Ooo, creepy! What could be more horrifying than unwillingly participating in one’s own demise? The description of the creature is compelling especially as the different pieces of the MC’s sense organs take their places in the ugly decay of the creature. Some of my favorite lines: “I can almost taste the decay as it moistens the remnants of its rotting lips with my tongue” and “my pink tongue rests inside the decomposing mossy mouth.”

My Time Has Come by Ophelia Leong: A sad transition of a forest Fae becoming a fish, in the tragic way magic passes away from the material world. It starts off with a wonderfully gruesome image. Setting up the trees as the rivals is a refreshing angle as is the Fae as a tooth-and-clawed predator—making it very hard for me to decide which side to (ahem) root for.

Mother’s Milk by Tim Stevenson: The last line chills—especially in light of the title. Yep, that gave me shivers. You don’t have to work too hard to convince me that the beauty industry is evil and probably deserves such a fate, so my being creeped-out mixes with a perverse satisfaction. Clever incorporation of the “creeping fear” phrase. Loved the pervasive rose imagery (the symbolic contrast of the wilting ones and the thorns of the creation) and the organic description of the creation (at once strange and lovely).

The Canopy by Mark A. King: I love the message of this one–finding light in the darkness–and that Callum is the catalyst for that discovery. We don’t know how the MC lost his parents, and we don’t have to. It’s enough that the loss has kept the MC in the shrouded world below the canopy. The imagery is sublime. The treatment of fear as a companion to mortality is brilliant. Then Callum is born and the MC’s focus starts to creep upward. By the way, “cinereal” is my new favorite word.

The Dreamer by Foy S. Iver: Starts out whimsical, (loved “scolaughed and jeettered” so much!). Poor little Root. I was (erm—here I go again) rooting for him, but, alas, he meets a common arboreal fate. I adored the description of the alien, who very well might have been a moon fairy. Cool concept that “hope” of a tree can be used as fuel.

Going Underground by Mark A. King: Here’s one I want to give a special mention to. After two letters, I went straight to Wiki to confirm that these were all stations. Sure enough. My favorite part is the Underground likened to the roots of the city. The structure puts me in mind of the song “88 Lines about 44 Women” by The Nails (dating myself here): each line brief but gives us a real bit of the place. And the POV character dozes off before the last stop.

Blink by Sonya: A dream-messing-with-reality piece that managed to deliver a startling punch in a mere 100 words. I laughed out loud at the “movie I didn’t understand” reference to Inception. The final line got me, though. I’m completely chilled imagining what a hundred eyes blinking must sound like.

Isle of Roots by Catherine Connolly: This one lulled me with the siren song of its gorgeous language. I think this one contains the line that precisely describes the subject and atmosphere of the image, a poetically twisted sentence that just nails it: “The tree itself lies amidst a heart of knotted roots for those who swim tear salt tides to it, casting themselves towards the child-like keening reaching from the boughs into the ocean”. I got so tangled in the wonderful knots of phrases, I felt like pilgrim gripped in its clutches. My favorite: “Truth takes chances in the speaking”.

Whispers by M T Decker: Ha! A quick atmospheric whisper of a piece with a snappy twist. I love how we never really know what the first choice was that has brought the “we” to this state. Clever.

Sensing by Marie Mckay: Imaginative treatment, directly addressing the creeping fear as “you”, picking out facets of its character. We start in familiar territory, the spookiness of fear (blind birds, forked hands of tress). Then, fear becomes a predator. Finally, we’re left with fear being a goading motivator. And in so few words!

The Project by A J Walker: The cross-purposes are set up so well and with such economy. There is a definite beginning, middle and end of a full-fledged story, here. You lead the reader to want both Elizabeth and Mr. Martin to succeed in their goals: she to understand him and he to prove the truth of his visions. By the end, though, I realize that I’ve been set up in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for way. She does understand, and the truth of his “bad men” (that they’re hallucinations) comes to light in the most tragic way. I’m in awe of the seemingly effortless way the POV shifts from Elizabeth to Martin and then out to objective. It worked perfectly—and another example of knowing the rules (one POV per scene) and then breaking them as the situation demands. The situation does demand since the smooth shifts are the most effective way to tell this story.

Meta’d Out by David Shakes: The second of two meta-fictions, and yeah, I so very much feel for the voice here, fictionalized or not. Most of us have been there (at least twice a week). The deadly voice of doubt undermining the “just do it and enjoy” that has built up a passion for writing in the first place, the fear of not being able to do justice to a beautiful prompt, diminishing returns on novelty—yeah, yeah and more yeah. Loved the repetition of the creeping fear sentence.

Moving by Anita Harkness: Sweet! The entwining horror and lust reveals the elements that compel us regarding the awful/awe-ful. Exquisite comparison between arid Arizona and the Lovecraftian realm of Rhode Island. Thanks to Lovecraft, New England is the place where fear and passion meet. Love the echoes of the H.P. universe in details like “the oldest ones” and the mysterious swamp with things moving under the surface. A lot of great writing in here: “Here, whatever dies decays. It sinks into a sludge of terrifying possibilities” I also enjoy the take on “kindred spirits”—stripping all the rainbows and “woo” from the concept. Yes, these two are perfect for each other. May they live paranormally ever after.

Third Place: No Butterfly Wings by F E Clark: Oh, so painful and beautiful. You capture the frustration and agony of struggling to live with a pervasive yet inexplicable illness. The isolation, the loss of self, the unsung courage—and all in such incredible language. Phrases like “Tongue fumbling attempts at describing the hundred different intermittent symptoms” and “Crawling through the shattered glass of dependence, a creature half gone” and the comparison of self and friends “falling away” like autumn leaves eloquently illustrate the trials of disease. The breaking of the chrysalis to release not a butterfly but a partial morphed thing is as heartbreaking as it is heroic, leaving us with a sliver of hope that this will indeed be a new start.

Second Place: The Things That Live Here by A V Laidlaw: The first sentence pulls me right into the mystery, a mystery that casts a shadow over the intimate moment between mother and son. Loved how you set up the metaphor to take care of the photo prompt early on—but then it turns out that the metaphor is not merely fancy imagery. All the figurative language is just perfect—they never merely describe the physical reality of the thing described, but they also drop hints of the essence of the thing. The description of the father is a clear example of this (“laugh as solid as oakwood” and “scented of the rich earth”). The smallest details speak volumes: a stubborn cowlick, the iron key used to lock up. The slow pursuit of the trees coming after the boy is an excellent reason for “creeping fear”.

AND OUR WEEK FIVE WINNER IS:

Returned by Steph Ellis: So sinister, chilling, creepy—and that it stood out from the marshlands of exquisite creepiness this week is really a testament to the writing, here. From the imagery of the opening—perfectly reflecting the hauntingly evocative photo–to the ominous dramatic irony in the final image (a child running to join her parents), this one won me over. The double conflict between the hopefuls and Granny, between the living and the returned, layers the tension. As do the options Granny gives (What if Maryann chose “below”???) and the swirl of Maryann’s past swamping the present. The moment of taking over is a devastating swirl of sweet and awful. That poor puppy! Killing small animals might be in danger of becoming cliché in horror, but every once in awhile it wells up like fresh blood—as it does here, precisely because it’s incidental to the already established eeriness of the family and the take-over. The pair of sentences, “Someone else’s tear rolled down her cheek. Maryann laughed,” torture me: evil innocence shredding my sympathies to bits.

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Congratulations FE, AV, and Steph! Steph’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Nancy for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Six, judged by the incomparable Holly Geely!